A couple of years ago, I became aware of the sad fact that many Tikvah campers had not celebrated their becoming bar/bat mitzvah. It seemed natural that all children regardless of ability or disability–celebrated b’nai mitzvah. I therefore added the following questions on our Tikvah application; it was my hope that simply seeing these questions would encourage prospective Tikvah applicants to stop and consider that every person becomes bar/bat mitzvah, and every person can celebrate bar/bat mitzvah.
Please describe how you decided to mark your child’s becoming bar/bat mitzvah. (in shul, in Israel, Shabbat vs. non Shabbat, special service?). How did you reach this decision? If your child did not celebrate his/her bar/bat mitzvah, what factors influenced your decision. We have proudly celebrated many Tikvah and inclusion program bar and bat mitzvahs at Camp Ramah, and we have heard moving stories of bar and bat mitzvahs celebrated in various home communities. We will continue encouraging Tikvah families to explore the many possibilities for marking their child’s b’nai mitzvah.
I was delighted to attend the bar mitzvah of Max, a young man with autism, this past Sukkot Sunday. His mother, Helene, is very appreciative that a current Tikvah mother shared the story of the bar mitzvah of her son also a young man with autism. The Tikvah mothers encouragement, her willingness to share her sons bar mitzvah learning program as well as the details of the bar mitzvah service inspired Helene. Helene in turn worked closely and collaboratively with her own synagogue, Town and Village Synagogue, in Manhattan. The rabbi, cantor and community welcomed Max with open arms as they planned a creative bar mitzvah which was appropriate for Max. (I was lucky to be part of the bar mitzvah teaching team!).